Lord, remove the veil

In chapter three of The Pursuit of God, Removing the Veil, A.W. Tozer wrote about the Holy of Holies, the innermost and most sacred part of the ancient tabernacle in Jerusalem. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place and only once a year during the Day of Atonement. An ornate veil made of blue, purple, and crimson yarn separated the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place where Levites and priests were permitted.

When Jesus was crucified, the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom! The veil that had restricted access to the presence of God was removed, allowing all who believe to freely approach God and hear His voice. When Jesus sacrificed himself for our sins, he opened the door to all worshipers to enter God’s presence.

Of course, God is always present; He is omnipresent. He is everywhere. He reveals himself to us through creation. But we don’t all experience his manifest presence. Even those of us who know He is with us, long for more of Him. My thirsty soul is restless and pants for God. My chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 42:1-2

Tozer asked, since the veil was removed by Jesus death, what prevents us from entering God’s presence? Is there a veil in our hearts that shuts out the light and hides the face of God? Yes, there is a barrier. “It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged…”

The self-life. The long list of hyphenated sins of the heart: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-indulgence, self-love, self-centeredness, self-promotion, etc.

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Tozer says that we must bring our self- sins to the cross for judgment. Removing the veil is not an easy or pleasant process. To remove the veil is to tear apart a part of yourself. We can’t do it alone. God must do the work for us. Our job is to yield and put our trust in Him.

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Lord Jesus, thank you for breaking down the barrier between me and my God, for reconciling me to the Father. Son of God, Son of Man, thank you for showing me who God is. You make real to me his never ending love, mercy and forgiveness.

Dear God, please forgive me. I know that my sin separates me from you. I fall short of your glory and am not worthy to be in your presence. And yet my soul pants for you like a deer pants for streams of water. I long for your manifest presence.

Father God, I don’t like to think of myself as self-centered and yet I know that I am too often centered on myself. I struggle with self-righteousness. When I concern myself with the morality of others, it is easy to ignore my own sinfulness. My independence leads to a feeling of self-sufficiency and yet I am not sufficient. I need you.

Lord Jesus, you showed me how to walk in your Light and yet, I still struggle with self-control. You taught me who I should be but there is another power in me that is at war with my mind and my heart. I want to what is good, but I don’t. I want to control my tongue, but I don’t. I want to control my thoughts, but I don’t.

Lord, I can’t do this soul work without you. You are the potter; I am the clay. Mold me into the person I should be. Transform me. Renew me. Tear down the veil in my heart. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.

Following hard after You

I’ve already gotten off to a wrong start. It feels like I’m treating the pursuit of God like just another academic exercise. But this isn’t about my head; it’s about my heart. This is between me and my God.

Dear God, I want to know you. I want to find you. In every season, in every moment, before I bring my need, I will bring my heart and seek you first.

Lord, thank you for seeking me before I sought you. You drew me to you when I was just a little girl learning about Jesus. You’ve been there for me in all the good times and in all my difficulties. You’ve never left me, even when I wandered away from you. You put the desire in me to follow you. I don’t know why you chose me but I am so grateful that you did. Even as I continue to seek you, I take comfort in knowing that I am already in your hands.

Yes, I continue to seek you even though I found you long ago. I know you but I want to know you more. I already have you but I want more of you. I feel your presence and yet I long to be even closer to you. To most of the world, my pursuit of you is a mystery. I can only say that I believe in you. I adore you. I need you. I belong to you. I am Yours and you are mine.

I want to follow hard after you, Lord but I confess that I am too easily distracted by less important things. I am spiritually lazy. I tell myself that if only I had a quiet, secluded place and more time, I would focus more on you. But that is just an excuse, Lord. You’re right here. In every moment, in every place, you are with me. Give me the discipline to make time for you.

Lord, you created my inmost being. You have searched me and you know me, inside and out. You perceive my every thought. Before a word leaves my lips, you know it. I cannot hide anything from you. All the days of my life were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God, you are everything I need all wrapped up in One. You are my reason for being. You give my life purpose. You guide me. You shelter me in the storms of life. You are my rock and my redeemer. There is no greater love than the love you have for me. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me.

Lord, I pray that your Spirit will guide me as I follow hard after you. Search me and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Show me my offensive ways and give me the courage to face the truths about myself that only you can reveal. Amen.

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In the first chapter of The Pursuit of God, “Following Hard after God,” A.W. Tozer wrote about prevenient grace. The grace of God precedes human action. As Tozer put it, “before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.” God must enlighten us and put the urge in us to purse him.

Tozer wrote that all human interactions are a response of personality to personality. God created us in his image so we have the capacity to know him. Some of our social encounters are casual and others are more full and intimate. Genuine religion “is in essence the response of created personalities to the creating personality, God.” Just as it takes more than one encounter to really know a person, it takes more than one encounter to know God. I love this image of God as a multi-faceted personality who knows my emotions and desires so well.

For those of us who wish that God would speak to us audibly, Tozer has encouraging words: “God communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills, and our emotions.” He goes on to say that the “continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the spirit of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.” This is a perfect description of prayer – spirit speaking to Spirit with the mind and the heart. It is raw, honest, and unembarrassed, just like Psalm 139.

Tozer wrote that complacency is the enemy of spiritual growth. Some people, once they have been “saved” or have “accepted Christ,” are not hungry or thirsty for God. They are self-satisfied. They practice religion with no “jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego.” This is a shame because God does not want us to be lukewarm. He is a jealous God.

Tozer wrote that to have found God and to still pursue him is a paradox of love. This pursuit is a desire scorned by the self-satisfied but it is the joy of those whose hearts burn for God. The Spirit gives birth to spirit and when we are reborn, we sense our kinship with God. Our spirit leaps in joyous recognition. I am a child of God!

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.

A.W. Tozer

Tozer’s advice for those of us who are determined to find God is to simplify our approach to Him. Strip down all the religious teaching to the essentials of our faith. Come to God as a child, without any pretenses.

Here I am God, your little girl. Fill my longing heart.

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Photo by Richard Dorran on Unsplash

Simplify your life and make time with God a priority

At the end of a sermon series called “Living Deep,” my pastor handed out a list of steps to help us go deeper in our faith. The seventh step on his list is “simplify your life and make time with God a priority.” I can see why he phrased it the way he did. Our lives can become so full and complicated that it’s hard to make time with God a priority. But you simply can’t go deeper in your faith without spending time in prayer, worship, and spiritual reflection.

Simplify your life

One way to simplify your life is to stop chasing things that don’t really satisfy. Solomon wrote, whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. So much of what we do with our lives is meaningless. The pleasures of life are fleeting.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.  – Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NIV)

Jesus said we shouldn’t spend time worrying about even our most basic needs like what we’re going to eat or what we’re going to wear. God cares for us and he knows what we need.

To simplify your life, find contentment and joy in the basics of life. Be content with less.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

When you simplify your life, your priorities change. You stop serving money. You stop trying so hard to prove your worthiness. You stop loving this world and the superficial things it has to offer.

Between work, family, recreational, social, and other activities, our days fill up quickly. These days, it seems like everyone is busy. Being seen as busy has almost become a form of competition or a badge of honor. What does our need to seem busy really say about us? Do we need reassurance that our lives have purpose? Just as we should stop trying to find meaning in things, we should stop trying to fill the void or sense of emptiness, with meaningless activities.

I work full-time but busyness is not what keeps me from making time with God a priority. During my downtime, I am distracted by social media and television. My mind is led astray from my sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

When I think about the impact of distractions on my spiritual life, I’m reminded of the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13). When the farmer scattered the seed, some of it fell among the thorns which choked out the plants. The worries of the world and the meaningless ambitions of this life can keep the message of Jesus from bearing fruit in us. They can keep us from making time with God a priority.

Prioritize time with God

Jesus said that our first priority should be to seek his kingdom and his righteousnessWhere your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21, 33). Apart from God, I have no sense of well-being (Psalm 16:2). Apart from God, my heart is restless. My soul hungers and thirsts for God.

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. – Augustine

I want to make time with God a priority because the Lord restores my soul. He is my refuge and my strength. He fills me with shalom, the inward sense of completeness or wholeness. With God, I can sing, it is well, it is well with my soul!

Come all who are thirsty. Why waste your money on bread that doesn’t give you strength and your labor on things that do not satisfy? Listen, listen to God for the life of your soul is at stake (Isaiah 55:1-3).

I want to make time with God a priority because the Lord redeems my life. Every day, he crowns me with love and compassion (Psalm 103).

I want to make time with God a priority because his word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalm 119:105). His law is perfect, refreshing my soul. His statutes are trustworthy, making wise the simple. His precepts are right, giving joy to my heart. His commands are radiant, giving light to my eyes. His ways are more precious than gold, sweeter than honey. (Psalm 19:7-11)

When I make time for God, his priorities become my priorities. When I live in accordance with his Spirit, my mind is set on what the Spirit desires. I want what is good. My ambition is to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God. This is meaningful.

I struggle to make time with God the priority that it should be. I talk to God every day. I read the Bible but usually don’t spend much time studying or reflecting on what I have read. I confess that I can be spiritually lazy.

Lord, I want to make it my ambition to lead a quiet life; to be in your presence; to listen patiently for your voice; to seek your face; to pause and reflect at the end of each day. May this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Reading List:
1 Chronicles 16:11
Psalm 46:10; 131:1-2
Isaiah 55:1-2
Micah 6:8
Matthew 6:21-33
Luke 16:13
John 6:35, 14:23
Romans 8:5-6
2 Corinthians 11:3
1 Thessalonians 4:11
1 Timothy 6:6-8
1 John 2:15-16, 28

Here I Am, Lord

Here I am, Lord. It is I, Lord.

I am the woman at the well, a despised Samaritan. You know my secret shame, the mistakes in my past. Yet you, a Jew, spoke to me anyway and asked me for a drink. Day after day, I return to this earthly well for water. You told me about the gift of God – living water. Now I drink from a never-ending spring that leads to eternal life.

Here I am, Lord. It is I, Lord.

I am the woman in the crowd that nearly crushed you. I suffered for years from an affliction no one could see. Bleeding and weak, I touched the edge of your cloak. Your power flowed to my body and I was instantly healed. You knew. I fell at your feet, trembling, as I explained why I touched you. You sent me off in peace. You made me whole.

Here I am, Lord. It is I, Lord.

I am the woman who sits at your feet, eagerly listening to you speak. The worries of the world melt away when I am in your presence. Teacher, show me your ways. Teach me your paths. Other things can wait. You give me all that I need. I hunger and thirst for your righteousness.

Here I am, Lord. It is I, Lord.

You are the true grapevine. I am a branch. You purified me with your love and forgiveness. Your pruned me so I can bear good fruit. Your words remain in me. Your love remains in me. Apart from you, I can do nothing. Apart from you, I am nothing.

Here I am, Lord. It is I, Lord.

You are the shepherd. I am your sheep. I hear your voice. I know you. You lead me beside still waters. You restore my soul. Your rod and your staff comfort me. My cup runs over.

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

 

 

Knowing God

On the Proverbs 31 Ministries Facebook page, Lysa Terkeurst wrote that she has been saying a simple prayer each morning:

Lord I want to see You. I want to hear You. I want to know You, so I can follow hard after You.

I love this simple prayer. It reminds me of Lauren Daigle’s song “First” which is also about seeking God and knowing Him.

Before I bring my need

I will bring my heart

Before I lift my cares

I will lift my arms

I wanna know You

I wanna find You

In every season

In every moment

Before I bring my need

I will bring my heart

And seek You

To know and follow God is my heart’s prayer too, especially lately, with all the negativity in the world. At times like these, when faced with difficult choices to make, I want to follow God wholeheartedly and trust that He is in control.

Just a few weeks ago, I took a leap of faith and left my job of eight years not knowing what I am going to do next. I want to hear God and know what His plan is for me.

What does it mean to me to know God? To know God is:

  • to see a glimpse of his power and intelligence through the wonder of Creation
  • to revere Him because he is holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent
  • to see myself realistically; to be humbled. In seeing God’s perfection, I see how flawed I am. In seeing God’s power, I see how helpless I am.
  • to know just what is so amazing about grace because I know how wretched I am
  • to fully experience His mercy and forgiveness
  • to know that I am loved more than I can fathom
  • to trust that He will work everything out for my good. He has my back.
  • to trust that He is in control
  • to understand the kind of heart He has as demonstrated by Jesus Christ.
  • to know that He will never leave me nor forsake me
  • to fear Him and to desire to keep His commandments, knowing that He is a just and jealous God.
  • to be comforted in my sorrow
  • to be comforted when I am afraid. He is my refuge and strength.
  • to be thankful for the way He takes care of me and makes sure I have all I need
  • to have hope because He has promised that someday everything will be restored to its original glory. He will triumph over evil.
  • to want to glorify Him with my life
  • to know that I will spend eternity in his glorious presence

As much as I know God today through His word and His presence in my life, there is so much more I want to know. Lord, I want to know You. I will bring my heart and seek you first.